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Love is the answer and you know that for sure

johnlennon_1974_gruen_webuseonlyThis is my tribute to two war protesters who greatly influenced me: John Lennon and my father. I wrote this piece after an experience I had when I bought one of John Lennon’s pieces of artwork. 

John Lennon (Oct. 9, 1940 – Dec. 8, 1980)
Hollis Perry (March 27, 1932 – April 26, 1999)

My father fought in a war and John Lennon protested a war. And after my father fought in a war, he protested them, too, and healed himself by growing tomatoes, carrots, and onions and giving them to neighbors. John wrote songs and drew pictures to order his thoughts about the chaos of life.  The artist and musician had as much influence on me as the man who was the warrior and the gardener. And in my youth, the warrior gardener took his “Working Class Hero” dollars and bought many of the vinyl albums for the daughter who loved the musician who sang about “Give Peace a Chance.”

I wasn’t prepared for my reaction at the visual reminders of a nation’s youth and later its sorrow when John was killed.  Then, I saw the piece and the tears in my eyes convinced me it should be mine.

The sales woman inquired about my interest and, of course, it came down to a business transaction. Because really that’s what the world is that we live in even though “all you need is love.” I was prepared to pay and asked about options other than the 12-months-same-as-cash advertised in the store. So the petite woman with the beaming smile said she would inquire on my behalf.

She returned and said “yes, it was okay to pay for ½ today and to pay the other ½ when I picked up the piece” on Tuesday.

Until the owner of the Vegas art road show overheard and in front of all of the people in the gallery shouted “NOOOO!” at the saleswoman. And me, the woman with a visceral and automatic reaction to bullies, immediately walked up to the small circle in the middle of the gallery and interjected “you are very rude.” And the 6’2”, 230-pound man said quietly and calmly to me that he was speaking to the petite brunette. And I stood a little taller and said to him that he was speaking to me through her because his answer was about my question and that he was exceedingly rude. And he apologized in a calm manner to me and I redirected him and suggested he apologize to the woman at whom he shouted. He explained his rationale as to why my proposal was not workable. And his reason for his no was not offensive yet his communication of it to the sales lady was which I reiterated for him. And then he replied, “It’s not necessary for me to apologize to her, she works for me.”

And he suddenly walked off and the third person in the small circle inquired if I wanted to pay by credit card. And I told her that I would express my response to her in the same way the gentleman expressed his answer to my question and that was “NOOOO!”

real loveBut I wandered to the front of the store where my tears first began to fall and considered the circumstances of the day I had planned to distract myself from the loss of my father and mother in the springtime. And the petite brunette came up to me and gave me a book of John’s that he had co-written with his son, Sean, as a way to make up for the scene. I apologized to her that she was the subject of such bad behavior and the woman and I hugged.  And after all was said, I decided to buy the piece because “love is the answer and you know that for sure.

 

Copyright: Brenda Henning, 2018

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Do you feel like you’re being tested?

Below is a piece I wrote a few years ago when I took a class through Mary Anne Em Radmacher. She is most famous for a quote that says:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying I will try again tomorrow.”

I took her on-line class in a period when I was processing a number of life events: my mother had recently died, my family had made a momentous geographic change, and I was learning information about the health of my children. And to top it off, I had broken my ankle, so for six weeks I had ample time to heal myself through writing. This was occurring right before my 50th birthday.

My humorous side revealed itself. How do you use humor to help you through a difficult period?

Dear Brenda,

You have been involved in an extremely rigorous testing period known as your 49th year. This is the year that culminates all of the learning you’ve been involved in just prior to entering your Jubilee Year. You are 85 percent complete in the testing period.

Your test questions are being randomly created by a computer in REAL TIME, so there is no way to prepare for the test. It will seem as if the test is being created by some gnome living in the backwoods of Montana who has no clue of who the hell you are. This is a safeguard to ensure you are not taking a duplicate test from some previous year, which you thought at the time was a year you were glad to be finished with. It is natural for you to feel nostalgic about those years.

You are not allowed scratch paper or a cheat sheet on how to answer the questions which come your way. You may access at any time, though, a large library of self-help books, but they won’t seem very helpful to you because you’ll think the authors of those books were endowed with some special characteristic which wasn’t doled out to you. While the concept of cheerleaders is noble, the quarterback has to take the hit anyway whether anyone’s cheering or not.

You will be allowed frequent Diet Dr. Pepper breaks during the testing period. Ignore the warnings of Diet drinks being harmful. Instead, enjoy these brief moments as a way to recollect your thoughts.

After you have answered a question, you may check with your fellow classmates for their answers. But you won’t be allowed to change an answer once it’s submitted. Also, your classmates are being given a completely different set of questions, so their answers won’t apply to yours anyway.

It may seem as if others are cheating or skating by on their test. In fact, this is true. Your pointing it out to the test proctor, though, will not change the test questions for you. Instead, the test proctor may give you additional questions if you take your mind off what you’re doing and focus on other people’s test process.

Certain questions may be written in such a way as to your not being able to answer them correctly. This is intentional. Give an answer anyway and move on. You may also see some questions which you believed could be answered perfectly by you and it will be marked as incorrect. In fact, those questions will be underlined and circled in red to bring attention to the arrogance with which you answered those questions.

One other thing: the test known as your 49th year may make you feel like it is stretching you beyond your capabilities. Do not be worried about this. Answer everything that comes your way, the best way you can, and move on.

Sincerely,
Your 49th year

P.S. There will be no class survey afterwards asking you for your opinion on how we may improve our process.

courage

How to enjoy parenting challenges

untitled_cupid_2_sketch_2015Who can tell ahead of time what the experience of parenting will be like? Technology can let you know the gender of a baby, and sometimes it can diagnose a health issue in the womb. But technology can’t tell you this individual’s personality or forecast her or his future.

So parents and children are then thrown together into a relationship that unfolds day by day and is influenced by a number of factors. Some factors are in the home environment, and some factors are randomly and possibly senselessly thrust upon a family. It is my hope that every child’s home environment is a secure place for them, but this is not always the case.  If you suspect a child is being abused, I hope you will do the right thing and report it to the proper authorities in your area.

Barring any major abusive dysfunction of you as the parent, the life in a family is uniquely yours and your children’s. Suffice it to say, that regardless of whether or not your child or you have an identifiable health disability, you will encounter obstacles along the way in the form of

  • school,
  • work,
  • finances and
  • outside relationships.

Part of the human experience common to us all is to overcome challenges in whatever form they take. It depends on how you define things that will determine how you view it. The nervous system releases the same chemicals whether you are anxious or excited. But your perception of an event will determine whether you are excited or anxious.

So, it is the same with parenting and relationships. Something that might seem like a problem could actually be the solution to other things you have encountered both with your relationship with yourself and with other people.

The poem “Welcome to Holland” was written by Emily Perl Kingsley, a writer for Sesame Street. Her son, Jason Kingsley, was born with Down’s Syndrome. He is now a grown man  and has appeared in several movies. Kingsley’s experience as a parent with a child with a known disability inspired her to advocate for families whose children had disabilities. She influenced Sesame Street to have the Muppets represent the range of human experiences people have. In March of last year, Sesame Street introduced us to Julia, the first Muppet with autism.

Kingsley also took her writing gift and used it to educate and inspire thousands of people. Her poem “Welcome to Holland” has been adapted for many different experiences, parenting and otherwise. Regardless of whether you are a parent or you are someone who doesn’t have children, you have likely experienced an unexpected change in your plans you’ve needed to work through.

So, welcome to Holland or Iowa or Texas or Montana or wherever you find yourself that you didn’t plan on being. Here’s to “blooming where you’re planted.”

Welcome to Holland

BY EMILY PERL KINGSLEY

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

***

©1987 BY EMILY PERL KINGSLEY.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Have you forgiven or forgotten it?

willie nelson

You had a disagreement with another person and in your mind you forgave. You were able to forgive them because you ended your relationship with them. But did you really forgive them or did you just forget them?

The answer to that question will be revealed next time you unexpectedly run into them in a location you weren’t prepared for, such as your local grocery store. If your heart jumps and your stomach feels anxious, then the injury of the conflict hasn’t subsided and, frankly, you focused on the forgetting but not the forgiving.

So what do you do when you come across that person?

Here are some options, not all of them recommended.

1. Turn around and pretend you didn’t see them.

2. Take your shopping cart and bang into the back of their legs pretending you didn’t see them.

3. Walk by them as if they were invisible and pretend you didn’t see them, or

4. See them.

As uncomfortable as it could be, facing a person who injured you is a response coming from a stance of self-empowerment. Avoiding them or lashing out at them will reinforce for you that you were on the losing end of the conflict. Instead, take a deep breath, open your eyes, and see the person in front of you. What you discover might surprise you about them and yourself.

Now, for the awkward moment. Does seeing them include speaking? Maybe. But on your terms and not theirs. You can say hello, or nod your head and give a small smile (but not the smirk smile) and keep walking. If they initiate a conversation, such as, “how are you?” say, “I’m great!”  (You are great, so be honest about it!)

So. the moment has passed and you SAW them, what do you do next to FORGIVE them?

Here are some steps that may help you with the process of forgiveness.
buddha forgiveness prayer
1. Write the person a letter stating exactly what they did that hurt you.

Journaling is a therapeutic process which can help you “read your own mind.” Journaling does not have to be limited to words. Incorporating art or other visual modes are just as effective in processing your feelings. (Do not send that person the letter, but it might help to read it to another supportive person who can keep a confidence.)

2. Pray and meditate on the concept of forgiveness.

Sometimes, we can’t pray for that person, but we can start the process by quieting the thoughts that racket around like they are on a handball court by focusing on the theme of forgiveness.

3. When you are ready to move to the next stage, pray for good things for yourself and that person. Some people will leave out the part about praying for good things for themselves, but you deserve good things, too.

This action is empowering because it gives you control. When you start, you don’t have to be sincere (and you probably won’t be sincere), but over time you may find yourself hoping each of you receive the gift of a great life. After all, hurting people hurt others.

4. Understand, the role of forgiveness isn’t to change that person as change may never happen, but it is there to heal you and give you a better quality of life.

Even if the other person tried to steal your quality life in a long ago incident, they don’t have to keep stealing it.

© 2018 Brenda Henning

 

 

 

 

 

 

New thoughts, right actions about marriage

grow old with me.jpg

This weekend marks my 21st wedding anniversary. Marriage has consumed my life for two decades. Everyone’s marriage is unique to them, so no one can tell you how to be married. It’s uncharted territory for the both of you. You can learn general guidelines from books, therapists, or church classes in how to:

  • Fight fair
  • Have more and better sex
  • Be better parents (if you have kids) and
  • Plan for retirement.

But the details of those general suggestions will be worked out by you and your spouse. Sometimes it will be done in an adult, mature way and sometimes the neighbors will wonder if World War III broke out. Don’t worry, though, the neighbors have probably had World War III, themselves.

Ann Landers would pose the question “are you better off with them or without them” to someone who was trying to decide on a divorce. I’ve Googled once or twice about how to get a divorce, but thankfully, the moment passed and I was able to answer I’m better  with him. I hope my husband thinks he’s better with me, too.

mike and meDespite (maybe it’s because) of our rough patches, I admire and love my husband more than anyone else in the world. That is not an overstatement. Arriving at this global admiration has required me to be open to the experiences that developed the character my husband has. It’s easy to admire an inspirational person when you read about their story. It’s much different when you live that inspirational story with him. After all, the path to an inspirational story is traveled by overcoming challenges and obstacles placed on your journey.

Of course, we have overcome mutual obstacles and doing so is easier when you have a teammate. Yet, I am talking about the personal achievements of my husband. Perhaps, I’ve been his helpmate through it, but he is the one who tackled the work and earned the accomplishment. Most people use financial success as a standard for achievement. We have abundant resources, yet that’s at the bottom of my list for my admiration. What I admire him the most for is his diligent attention to personal self-improvement in how he cares for himself, interacts with others, and provides service to those around him.

I married M. because of the value he placed on being a father. Our sons have had health challenges that have required an investment in time, money, and nurture for them to overcome. My husband has been there each step of the way. I’ve talked to many single moms in similar circumstances and their common theme for why they are single tackling similar issues is because their men “didn’t want to deal with it.” M. deals with things.

When my husband graduated high school he went right to work. He learned a trade in the oil and gas industry. He literally has gone from wearing an FRC shirt with his name embroidered above the pocket to a high-rise office building with his initials monogrammed on his shirt cuffs. He has gone from turning wrenches in the dusty oilfield desert in New Mexico to turning in his swivel chair to look out over the swanky Galleria in Houston. Sometimes M., will say it feels like a dream to him he has been able to progress the way he has in his career, considering the modest background in which he was raised.  My husband is a good example that it’s not necessary to have a college education and the debt that goes with it to do well in your career.

My husband has a mind for business and he also has a heart for service. Daily, my husband is on the phone with people to check on them and offer his experience, strength and hope. If you’re one of my husband’s neighbors, thank your good fortune because if you have a broken faucet or fence latch, my husband will be there to fix it for you. If you’re the stranger on the road with a stalled car and my husband passes by, he will either jumpstart your battery, change your tire, or drive you to someone who can help you.

Twenty-one years is a long time to know someone and I’m grateful that both of us have been willing to stick it out.  One day at a time, I know we can make it another 21 years.

“Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” Robert Browning, Jr.

© 2018 Brenda Henning

 

 

Do you need a lifeline?

Affiliate disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase of a product or service.

Every so often it’s good to take a step back and take a different view of your life. A big picture point of view can give you some perspective that living it up close and personal every day won’t allow. A wide-angle, panoramic view can be especially helpful when you are experiencing a challenging time.

37061793_10155408670426968_2408675066129678336_nOne way to see your life in a different way is to create a lifeline or life map. New author Jen Alward recommends a lifeline as an activity in her new release Hope and Healing at Home: Build Bridges with your kids and empower them for life with Art & Christian Therapy.Click here to visit Jen Alward.

Locating where you are and gaining insight into how you got there can give you direction in where to go next. Families have challenges today that were unimaginable 20-30 years ago. Drug epidemics, increased school violence and other societal trends are placing new levels of stress on parents and their children.

20180726_142342(2)
A lifeline will help you see where you’ve been and where you could go.

You can be as detailed as you want in your lifeline, family map. I set mine up for 10-year decades, but you divide it into five-year increments if you prefer. It can be helpful to include other family members on one sheet of paper to see where the trajectory of their lives may be headed and to help you set family as well as individual goals.

A perspective you may gain by completing a lifeline or family map is noticing how many challenges you have already successfully overcome. This can be reassuring that you will be able to meet whatever challenge you currently find yourself coping with. Seeing the pivotal periods in your life on paper can be a reality check into how you are spending your precious commodity of time.

So, where are you going with your one “wild and precious life?”

direction

© 2018 Brenda Henning

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